Left Justified: Grilling the County Board

Where does your county board representative stand on the environment—at the throat, or on the belly?

The election is fast approaching, and the local BlackHawk Sierra Club wants to know where the Winnebago County Board candidates stand. It’s the first time that the group ever sent questionnaires to candidates to get their views. I am the conservation chairman of the local Sierra Club. Here are some of the main concerns:

On land use zoning, candidates were asked whether they support special use permits to allow residential developments on land zoned as Agricultural, which accounts for a lot of the best farmland disappearing under sod and pavement.

Do they support rewriting the zoning ordinance for Planned Community Developments to provide minimum standards for open spaces (we hope they do)? Do they support updating the county land use plan that designates areas not suitable for development, including agricultural areas? Would they revise the land use plan to designated areas suitable for the development of alternative energy sources such as wind energy and ethanol production (a good question right now)?

Should the area adjacent to Rock Cut State Park be protected from urbanization (or be filled with Burger Worlds)? Would they support the construction of a new north-south highway east of I-90 (Puri-ville East)?

On the forest preserves: Are you aware that the County Board also serves as the Forest Preserve District Board (how many of you knew that)? Do you support the Boone-Winnebago Greenways Plan for a comprehensive land use and policy development guide?

The BlackHawk Sierra Club is hosting an Environmental Forum for Winnebago County Board Candidates at 7:30 p.m., this Monday, Oct. 23, hosted at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St., Rockford. Free and open to the public, this is the time to find out where the county board should stand on the environment.

Winnebago County Board candidates have been invited to attend and speak about environmental and land use issues that face the county. Candidates will speak for about 5 minutes each and take questions from the audience. We’ll also review their responsibilities and the environmental hopes for the future. The Forum will run until 9 p.m.

Some more questions

Would you support a ballot referendum to increase funds for forest preserve land acquisition (ouch—increase taxes)? Do you support acquisition of land along the county’s rivers and streams to protect wildlife and water quality? Is there a potential of conflict of interest in serving as both a County Board member and a Forest Preserve District Board member? If county development called for a road that could jeopardize a forest preserve, how would you resolve the conflict between the two agencies?

On economic development: Do you support commercial development in areas not designated as such in the county plan? Do you support a storm water management plan when they build in unincorporated areas?

Here’s one of personal monetary interest: do you accept campaign contributions from commercial developers, including their owners and proxies? What will you do to protect the county’s open areas from urban sprawl?

On alternate transportation: Do you support funding for bike lanes on new highways? Winnebago County is an integral part of the planned Grand Illinois Trail, a 500-mile loop of bike and hiking trails in northern Illinois. Do you support funding the completion of the Winnebago County portion of the Grand Illinois Trail?

Zoning ordinances, Planned Community Developments and flood water have been in the news lately. Sierra Club members want to know the candidates’ stand on accommodating residential development while protecting agricultural and forest preserve areas from urban sprawl.

The Club will review all the received responses from the candidates. The BlackHawk Sierra Club encourages you to attend and vote!

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Oct. 18-24, 2006, issue

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